Once again, Russia is being featured as Dr. Evil Incarnate, the villain that regularly plays opposite peace-loving NATO nations, in a BBC program that has Moscow initiating an invasion on Latvia followed up with a nuclear strike on Britain.
And just in time for the military-industrial shopping season.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has failed Western analysts and political pundits in spectacular fashion. Despite a full-court effort to portray Russia as a barbaric, land-grabbing nation obsessed with the idea of restoring imperial real estate, Russia has stubbornly refused to play along.
Why, even dangling the fat bait of Ukraine before Russia’s nose could not get Moscow to react the way NATO had hoped it would.
In fact, while NATO has been hot on the warpath against a number of shell-shocked nations across the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa, Russia has gone to war on just one (1) occasion, and that was against Georgia, and only after the egomaniacal leader of that tiny Caucasian country tempted fate by stupidly poking the Russian bear first.
Thus, the BBC has apparently found it necessary to contrive an altered state of reality, a veritable twilight zone, to convince its audience of Russia’s ‘real’ intentions: The result is a military contractor’s wet dream, an apocalyptic bunker buster, unsubtly entitled ‘World War Three: Inside the War Room,’ that depicts a sweat-inducing showdown between Russia and NATO and the beginning of WWIII.
It’s probably safe to say I would not be playing plot spoiler by revealing here that Russia has been typecast as the aggressor.
To briefly summarize: After the Russian military rolls over little Latvia for no good strategic reason whatsoever, British military commanders and graying bureaucrats with furrowed brows huddle themselves in a bunker, deciding whether to launch Trident missiles at Russia in response.
The Daily Mail breathlessly described the tax-payer paid performance as “an utterly realistic ‘war game’” which presents “deeply troubling questions, not least with the current political row over Government plans to spend £100 billion replacing our fleet of Trident submarines.”
Eureka! At the very same time UK military contractors are salivating over the prospect of winning billion-dollar contracts to replace the Queen’s collection of Trident nuclear-armed submarines, along comes a state-funded scaremongering film, starring arch-villain Russia to lend some credence to the initiative.
Russian lawmaker Frants Klintsevich told the Russian News Service radio station the film will give NATO an opportunity to remind member states that they should crack open their tattered purses and boost their military spending.
“They [West] have always demonized Russia trying to show that it is uncontrolled and non-European. As for what happens recently… we qualified this a long time ago as an information war, a very serious and a profound one,” said Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of Federation Council’s committee on defense and security.
“Today the US has a very serious problem of rearmament, the military and industrial sector needs to get financing. A mechanism of the corrupt American elite has been launched. This was in Iraq, is in Syria and around Europe,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has provided a tongue-in-cheek critique of the BBC film.
“Unfortunately, our colleagues from the BBC have lately resorted to making public products, of quite low-quality. Therefore, we haven’t always been in a hurry to familiarize ourselves with them,” Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked whether the Kremlin has stayed up late to catch the film.
“It’s simply not worth the time it takes to watch,” Peskov said.
On the same day the BBC thriller was released, a report by the totally unbiased Rand Corporation – invoking sexed-up memories of Saddam Hussein’s alleged ability to strike the UK in 45 minutes – said that it would take just 60 hours for Russia to occupy Estonia and Latvia, and that’s not taking into account Riga’s rush-hour traffic.
“Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours,” Rand said in its report.
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad.”
It might be worth noting in closing that former RAND chief strategist, Herman Kahn, once forwarded the insane idea of a “winnable” nuclear exchange in his 1960 book ‘On Thermonuclear War.’
This led to Kahn being the inspiration for the title character of Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy satire Dr. Strangelove.
As far as the BBC’s latest anti-Russia production goes, well, it’s just plain strange.
Robert Bridge is the author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire”, which was released in 2013. @Robert_Bridge
Super Bowl 50 will be the first National Football League championship to happen since it was reported that much of the pro-military hoopla at football games, the honoring of troops and glorifying of wars that most people had assumed was voluntary or part of a marketing scheme for the NFL, has actually been a money-making scheme for the NFL. The U.S. military has been dumping millions of our dollars, part of a recruitment and advertising budget that’s in the billions, into paying the NFL to publicly display love for soldiers and weaponry.
Of course, the NFL may in fact really truly love the military, just as it may love the singers it permits to sing at the Super Bowl halftime show, but it makes them pay for the privilege too. And why shouldn’t the military pay the football league to hype its heroism? It pays damn near everybody else. At $2.8 billion a year on recruiting some 240,000 “volunteers,” that’s roughly $11,600 per recruit. That’s not, of course, the trillion with a T kind of spending it takes to run the military for a year; that’s just the spending to gently persuade each “volunteer” to join up. The biggest military “service” ad buyer in the sports world is the National Guard. The ads often depict humanitarian rescue missions. Recruiters often tell tall tales of “non-deployment” positions followed by free college. But it seems to me that the $11,600 would have gone a long way toward paying for a year in college! And, in fact, people who have that money for college are far less likely to be recruited.
Despite showing zero interest in signing up for wars, and despite the permanent presence of wars to sign up for, 44 percent of U.S. Americans tell the Gallup polling company that they “would” fight in a war, yet don’t. That’s at least 100 million new recruits. Luckily for them and the world, telling a pollster something doesn’t require follow through, but it might suggest why football fans tolerate and even celebrate military national anthems and troop-hyping hoopla at every turn. They think of themselves as willing warriors who just happen to be too busy at the moment. As they identify with their NFL team, making remarks such as “We just scored,” while firmly seated on their most precious assets, football fans also identify with their team on the imagined battlefield of war.
The NFL website says: “For decades the NFL and the military have had a close relationship at the Super Bowl, the most watched program year-to-year throughout the United States. In front of more than 160 million viewers, the NFL salutes the military with a unique array of in-game celebrations including the presentation of colors, on-field guests, pre-game ceremonies and stadium flyovers. During Super Bowl XLIX week [last year], the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project invited veterans to attend the Salute to Service: Officiating 101 Clinic at NFL Experience Engineered by GMC [double payment? ka-ching!] in Arizona. …”
Pat Tillman, still promoted on the NFL website, and eponym of the Pat Tillman Foundation, is of course the one NFL player who gave up a giant football contract to join the military. What the Foundation won’t tell you is that Tillman, as is quite common, ceased believing what the ads and recruiters had told him. On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman’s mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn’t confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead at short range, bullets shot by an American. The White House and the military knew Tillman had died from so-called friendly fire, but they falsely told the media he’d died in a hostile exchange. Senior Army commanders knew the facts and yet approved awarding Tillman a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion, all based on his having died fighting the “enemy.” Clearly the military wants a connection to football and is willing to lie as well as to pay for it. The Pat Tillman Foundation mis-uses a dead man’s name to play on and prey on the mutual interest of football and the military in being connected to each other.
Those on whom the military’s advertising succeeds will not typically die from friendly fire. Nor will they die from enemy fire. The number one killer of members of the U.S. military, reported yet again for another year this week, is suicide. And that’s not even counting later suicides by veterans. Every TV pundit and presidential debate moderator, and perhaps even a Super Bowl 50 announcer or two, tends to talk about the military’s answer for ISIS. What is its answer for people being stupidly ordered into such horrific hell that they won’t want to live anymore?
It’s in the ads
At least as big a focus of the Super Bowl as the game itself is the advertising. One particularly disturbing ad planned for Super Bowl 50 is an ad for a war video game. The U.S. military has long funded war video games and viewed them as recruiting tools. In this ad Arnold Schwarzenegger shows what fun it is to shoot people and blow up buildings on the game, while outside of the game people are tackling him more or less as in a football game. Nothing here is remotely warlike in a realistic sense. For that I recommend playing with PTSD Action Man instead. But it does advance the equation of sport with war — something both the NFL and the military clearly desire.
An ad last year from Northrop Grumman, which has its own “Military Bowl,” was no less disturbing. Two years ago an ad that appeared to be for the military until the final seconds turned out to be for Jeeps. There was another ad that year for Budweiser beer with which one commentator found legal concerns:
“First, there’s a violation of the military’s ethics regulations, which explicitly state that Department of Defense personnel cannot ‘suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment’ of any ‘non-Federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise. … Under this regulation, the Army cannot legally endorse Budweiser, nor allow its active-duty personnel to participate in their ads (let alone wear their uniforms), any more than the Army can endorse Gatorade or Nike.”
Two serious issues with this. One: the military routinely endorses and promotes the NFL. Two: despite my deep-seated opposition to the very existence of an institution of mass murder, and my clear understanding of what it wants out of advertisements (whether by itself or by a car or beer company), I can’t help getting sucked into the emotion. The technique of this sort of propaganda (here’s another ad) is very high level. The rising music. The facial expressions. The gestures. The build up of tension. The outpouring of simulated love. You’d have to be a monster not to fall for this poison. And it permeates the world of millions of wonderful young people who deserve better.
It’s in the stadium
If you get past the commercials, there’s the problem of the stadium for Super Bowl 50, unlike most stadiums for most sports events, being conspicuously “protected” by the military and militarized police, including with military helicopters and jets that will shoot down any drones and “intercept” any planes. Ruining the pretense that this is actually for the purpose of protecting anyone, military jets will show off by flying over the stadium, as in past years, when they have even done it over stadiums covered by domes.
The idea that there is anything questionable about coating a sporting event in military promotion is the furthest thing from the minds of most viewers of the Super Bowl. That the military’s purpose is to kill and destroy, that it’s recent major wars have eventually been opposed as bad decisions from the start by a majority of Americans, just doesn’t enter into it. On the contrary, the military publicly questions whether it should be associating with a sports league whose players hit their wives and girlfriends too much.
My point is not that assault is acceptable, but that murder isn’t. The progressive view of the Super Bowl in the United States will question the racism directed at a black quarterback, the concussions of a violent sport that damages the brains of too many of its players (and perhaps even the recruitment of new players from the far reaches of the empire to take their place), sexist treatment of cheerleaders or women in commercials, and perhaps even the disgusting materialism of some of the commercials. But not the militarism. The announcers will thank “the troops” for watching from “over 175 countries” and nobody will pause, set down their beer and dead animal flesh and ask whether 174 countries might not be enough to have U.S. troops in right now.
The idea that the Super Bowl promotes is that war is more or less like football, only better. I was happy to help get a TV show canceled that turned war into a reality game. There is still some resistance to that idea that can be tapped in the U.S. public. But I suspect it is eroding.
The NFL doesn’t just want the military’s (our) money. It wants the patriotism, the nationalism, the fervent blind loyalty, the unthinking passion, the personal identification, a love for the players to match love of troops — and with similar willingness to throw them under a bus.
The military doesn’t just want the sheer numbers of viewers attracted to the Super Bowl. It wants wars imagined as sporting events between teams, rather than horrific crimes perpetrated on people in their homes and villages. It wants us thinking of Afghanistan not as a 15-year disaster, murder-spree, and counter-productive SNAFU, but as a competition gone into double quadruple overtime despite the visiting team being down 84 points and attempting an impossible comeback. The military wants chants of “USA!” that fill a stadium. It wants role models and heroes and local connections to potential recruits. It wants kids who can’t make it to the pros in football or another sport to think they’ve got the inside track to something even better and more meaningful.
I really wish they did.
By Chris Rossini | RonPaulLibertyReport | February 5, 2016
We all know how Hollywood and the crony media likes to portray the US military. It’s almost always presented as this well-oiled machine, good looking people, white teeth, well-spoken, the whole nine yards.
Hardly will you see how trillions of taxpayers dollars go up in smoke and how the Pentagon mysteriously “loses” track of where the money goes. No, the actual truth about how government bureaucracy works is not what you’ll see in the latest blockbuster film.
Perceptions are critically important when running an operation that forcefully takes money from American citizens. Perception is worth big bucks! As a matter of fact, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had his hands out this week seeking yet another $600 billion.
Even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come 10, 20, or 30 years down the road.
This is where perception comes in. The belief that the US military (a) should be fighting for decades to come, and (b) that it’s able to sit down and plan 10, 20, and 30 years down the road.
If this were even remotely true, was it in the US plans for ISIS to exist right now? How about the fact that the Taliban controls more of Afghanistan than at any time since 2001? Was that in the plans?
Obama’s “plan” for Iraq was “an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.” Yet, Iraq today doesn’t resemble that at all. Obama was supposed to end the Iraq war, yet mission creep has the US with well above 4,000 troops in that country, and the numbers keep climbing. Was all of this in the plans as well?
The “plan” for Libya was to conduct a “humanitarian intervention,” yet anyone who looks at Libya now and sees humanitarianism needs to get their eyes checked. Was turning Libya into a cauldron of misery, and yet another magnet for ISIS, in the “plans”?
What if there’s a financial crisis in the next 10, 20, or 30 years? Is that factored into the plans? And are we to assume that the American public will still be OK with military interventionism that far into the future? What if non-interventionist ideas reach a critical mass?
The truth is this: our world is incredibly complex. It’s so complex that it’s beyond the human mind to “run it” with a military empire. If that were possible, the dustbin of history wouldn’t be overflowing with failed military empires.
Who knows what the world will look like 10, 20, or 30 years from now? That’s an eternity when you’re dealing with human beings that have the ability to choose and contemplate their actions.
One thing is certain though. What happens 30 years from now is insignificant to the military-industrial-complex. They want as much of our money as possible RIGHT NOW!
If you really want a lesson in how the Western popular press works, this is it.
Without question, Germany is the leading power in Europe. ZDF is its state broadcaster and most popular channel.
Together with sister network ARD; German’s are obliged to pay €17.98 per month to fund it.
This week, during a radio event in Berlin, the retired head of ZDF Bonn, Dr Wolfgang Herles, dropped a bombshell. He admitted the network, and others, takes orders from the government on what, and what not, to report.
Now, you’d expect this kind of story to be splashed across the world’s press, wouldn’t you? A former senior management figure acknowledging that his ex-employers work in tandem with the authorities to control the news agenda in such an important country? If such a revelation was made in a ‘developing’ nation, NATO media would be all over it.
The BBC, a carbon copy of ZDF and ARD in Britain, is busy promoting a documentary about a fake Russian invasion of Latvia. Meanwhile, in Germany itself, RT Deutsch and Munich’s Focus appear to be the only two significant outlets tackling the revelations. This in a country where the Dresden region was once known as the “valley of the stupid” because Western TV signals couldn’t reach much of it during the Cold War.
Many people across Europe suspect that most domestic state TV is under fairly direct control of politicians. The BBC, despite its mendacious cultivation of an image of fairness, is a pretty obvious example. It is governed by a Trust, wholly appointed by the Queen on the advice of government ministers of the day. Russia’s most popular station, the First Channel, although partially privately owned, is also administered by state appointees.
What makes Herles’ outburst so significant is his seniority. Before retiring last year, he was a prominent culture editor and presenter. In the 90’s, he hosted his own chat show, ‘Live’, and prior to these ventures, he’d been head of ZDF Bonn. At that time, Bonn was the West German capital. It’s important to understand that ZDF, while available across Germany, is technically owned by the Bundesländer (states).
Thus, Bonn-based Herles would have had far greater understanding of how German politics worked than most in ZDF’s Mainz headquarters, never mind far flung regions.
Turning a blind eye
Since the Cologne sex attacks on New Year’s Eve, there have been strong allegations that German media downplayed, or even ignored, the story. With migrants, predominately Arabic in origin, pouring into the country since last year, highlighting assaults where the alleged perpetrators were of Arab appearance could help turn public opinion against Angela Merkel’s “open-borders” policy. On the other hand, ignoring infractions by newcomers serves to keep Germans ignorant about how Berlin’s scheme could jeopardize their own safety. A lot of people are, understandably, angry about that.
Wolfgang Herles. © Wikipedia
Herles’ admission was prompted by the assertion that ordinary people have lost faith in Germany’s tightly-controlled media. “We have the problem that – now I’m mainly talking about the public [state] media – we have closeness to the government,” he revealed. “Not only because commentary is mainly in line with the grand coalition (CSU, CDU, and SPD), with the spectrum of opinion, but also because we are completely taken in by the agenda laid down by the political class.”
The retired ZDF chief went on to concede that the station took orders on what to broadcast. “The topics about which are reported are laid down by the government,” he confessed. Ironically, the Guardian, with no actual evidence, has prominently published numerous allegations of the Kremlin engaging in this practice. However, it ignores a similar assertion about Germany, which is actually backed up by a credible figure.
Of course, it’s not just the publicly-owned media; their private counterparts are also far from balanced. Bild Zeitung, Germany’s bestselling newspaper, is bound by the charter of its holding company, Axel Springer SE, “to further the unification of Europe.” Moreover, it must “support the Transatlantic Alliance, and solidarity with the United States of America in the common values of free nations.” Even the fairest editor in the world wouldn’t have much leeway under those conditions.
Pan European myopia
As it happens Germany is not alone. Last year, the Times Ireland exposed how Dublin’s state-controlled RTE routinely furnishes questions to government ministers before they appear on air. Incredibly, RTE News, currently helmed by controversial British executive Kevin Bakhurst, responded by attempting to smear The Times.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, the fervently liberal Expressen newspaper this week labeled The Daily Mail ‘racist.’ The British newspaper’s crime? Daring to report facts on the country’s migrant crisis that are precluded in Sweden. Because the domestic media refuse to cover negative stories involving migrants, many Swedes are now forced to access British and Russian media to read news about their country.
Right now, the pro-EU press is struggling to control the narrative. Dismissing rival viewpoints as “propaganda” can only work for so long. Furthermore, turning a blind eye to stories that question EU policy is a tougher proposition in the age of social media.
Last year, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine closed online comment threads on all articles about migration. Last week, The Guardian followed suit, blocking all posts related to immigration, Islam and race.
These moves aren’t a huge surprise. In recent years, journalists and commentators who refuse to fall-in-line with the liberal European consensus have been increasingly barred from the mainstream media. This stands in marked contrast to previous decades in which debate was actively encouraged and opposing views cherished. Maybe Mikhail Gorbachev wasn’t far off when he warned:”The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.”
Bryan MacDonald is a journalist. He worked in Dublin for many years, for Ireland on Sunday and the Evening Herald.
The family of a rancher who was shot by law enforcement during the Oregon standoff is calling the shooting death unjustified for a second time, accusing the FBI and Oregon State Police of a cover-up.
Rancher LaVoy Finicium was shot by Oregon State Police officers during an attempt to stop and arrest the leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, then on its 25th day. Protesters took over the refuge’s federal building to protest the arson convictions of two other ranchers, as well as to express anger of federal land policy.
“At this point, based on additional information we have now received, it is our position that not only was the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum completely unjustified, but that the FBI and Oregon State Police may also be engaging in a cover-up, and seeking to manipulate and mislead the media and the American public about what really happened,” read a statement from Finicum’s family, obtained by the Oregonian.
The family said new information from eye witness accounts supplemented their previous accusation that the FBI and OSP could not show any justification for Finicum’s death. One of the passengers riding in the white Jeep driven by Finicum, Shawna Cox, allegedly gave a different account of what happened that day after she was released from custody.
“According to Shawna Cox, they were being fired upon right from the outset at the second stop, before LaVoy exited the vehicle. Bullets had already come through the front windshield…. there was no question that LaVoy was trying to draw gunfire away from the others in the vehicle,” read the statement.
Cox told the family that it was clear LaVoy had his hands in the air and meant to keep them there, not to pull out a firearm.
“[The] best explanation for LaVoy’s arguably furtive hand movements, and why he lowered his hands and reached for his side at one point is because he had already been shot, and he was reaching toward the area where he had been hit as an involuntary physical reflex… before being shot again and collapsing,” read the statement.
Cox told the family that after LaVoy was lying motionless in the snow, federal agents and police “unleashed a barrage of gunfire on LaVoy’s truck and its remaining occupants… Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox and Victoria Sharp, and shot it repeatedly.”
Cox said Ryan Bundy was wounded during the attack, and that in addition to the gunfire they were “terrorized by repeated smoke and pepper bombs.” She also said law enforcement did not make “any attempt to provide any meaningful or timely medical attention to LaVoy,” according to the statement.
In its previous statement, the family said they thought LaVoy’s movements were animated and said, “there are always at least two sides to every story…they didn’t know exactly what happened.” Now with Cox’s account, they are less convinced about the FBI account.
“After re-reviewing the extended video with better technology, we want to reiterate that we are not accepting at face value the FBI’s statement that LaVoy was actually armed,” the statement said.
Finicum’s family are demanding all applicable audio recordings and sound tracks from the FBI, a full-length unedited video of the operation and complete and close-up images of LaVoy’s truck “following the siege.”
The FBI released a 26-minute aerial video, without audio, of the tactical operation, including graphic footage of the shooting on January 28. The agency said they were releasing the video to counteract inaccurate and inflammatory accusations that the agency had been involved in killing Finicum in “cold blood.” The FBI also held a press conference and issued a formal statement interpreting the video.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, announced Tuesday that an investigation into the shooting won’t be released for another four to six weeks.
Ankara’s refusal to allow Russia to conduct an observation flight over Turkish territory under the Open Skies Treaty confirms Moscow’s concerns that Ankara is supporting the Daesh, which is prohibited in numerous countries including the United States and Russia, on the Turkish-Syrian border, a high-ranking source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
Russian inspectors planned to conduct the observation flight on board an An-30B plane over Turkish territory on February 1-5, but they were refused permission to do so after they arrived in Turkey and announced the flight route.
“This case is of course outrageous because the Open Skies Treaty today is practically one of many mechanisms that continue to operate in the European space and this treaty is valid and allows for acquiring valid information on steps being taken or not being taken by one or another state,” the source told RIA Novosti.
He reminded that in 2015 the West actively accused Russia of illegal activity on the Ukrainian border and NATO member countries requested observation flights over Russian territory, the results of which fully reversed the rumors.
“This once again confirms those concerns that the Russian side has voiced several times on using the Turkish-Syrian border to support Daesh militants,” the source said.
The Globe and Mail’s recent coverage of Rwanda has been schizophrenic. While South African-based correspondent Geoffrey York has done important work detailing how Paul Kagame’s government has assassinated its opponents and contributed to violence in Eastern Congo, columnist Gerald Caplan has justified its repression and echoed Kigali’s position on regional conflicts.
At the start of January York reported on two new books describing the totalitarian nature of President Kagame’s regime. “Village informers”, wrote York. “Re-education camps. Networks of spies on the streets. Routine surveillance of the entire population. The crushing of the independent media and all political opposition. A ruler who changes the constitution to extend his power after ruling for two decades. It sounds like North Korea, or the totalitarian days of China under Mao. But this is the African nation of Rwanda – a long-time favourite of Western governments and a major beneficiary of millions of dollars in Canadian government support.”
A year and a half ago York wrote an explosive investigation headlined “Inside the plots to kill Rwanda’s dissidents”, which provided compelling evidence that the regime had extended its assassination program, killing (or attempting to) a number of its former top officials who were living in South Africa. Since the initial investigation York has also reported on Rwandan dissidents who’ve had to flee Belgium for their safety and revealed that Ottawa failed to act after UN and Spanish court investigations concluded Canadian priests Guy Pinard and Claude Simard were killed by soldiers loyal to Kagame in the mid-1990s.
At the end of 2012 York reported on Rwanda reasserting control over the mineral rich Eastern Congo. In one of a number of insightful articles York described how “Rwandan sponsored” M23 rebels “hold power by terror and violence.” The rebel group added “a [new] layer of administrators, informers, police and other operatives” in and around the city of Goma in part to “bolster” its “grip on the trade in ‘blood minerals’.” (In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead.)
While York has done what investigative journalists are supposed to do — comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable — unfortunately the Globe also publishes regular columns by an author who seems to strive for the exact opposite in the case of Rwanda.
Gerald Caplan recently wrote about political conflict in Burundi, invoking Kagame’s rhetoric of “genocide” all the while ignoring Rwanda’s role in organizing armed opposition to the Burundian government. In support of Kigali’s aggressive regional posture, Caplan continues to repeat Kagame’s rationale for unleashing mayhem in the Congo two decades after the mass killing of Rwandan Tutsi (and Hutu) in 1994. In a 2014 column he wrote: “In the Congo former génocidaires lead a violent anti-Kagame militia dedicated to ‘finishing the work’ of the hundred days.”
In another column Caplan justified the arrest of presidential opponent Victoire Ingabire and criticized the Law Society of Upper Canada after it called for the release of her American lawyer, who was also imprisoned.
And strangely, for a former NDP strategist, Caplan has sought to muzzle media that disagree with the current government’s version of Rwandan history. In 2014 he signed an open letter condemning the BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story and a year earlier wrote a piece about lobbying the University of Toronto to remove the Taylor Report, a program on campus radio, from air because it hosted critics of the Rwandan government.
Caplan has failed to inform readers about his ties to the regime in Kigali. He started an organization with Rwanda’s current Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and said he stays at her family’s hotel when visiting the country. Caplan has also spoken at a number of events in Kigali and New York organized by the Rwandan government.
So, who to believe? York or Caplan? Is Kagame a saint or dictator?
My money is on the investigative journalist.
None of these buildings collapsed into their own footprint at near-freefall acceleration, so why did the World Trade Center buildings?
Sadly, over the last seventy years Israel has had many successes at the expense of the Palestinian people. But the one success that is the most remarkable is getting Palestinians and the world to buy into the notion that the occupation of Palestine began in 1967, and that therefore, the solution to the Palestinian question is what is known as the two State Solution. This is a manipulation of reality that would make any magician proud.
It has become completely acceptable to disregard the fact that the vast majority of Palestine has been occupied since 1948. Mentioning the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the eradication of Palestinian towns and villages, mosques and churches, schools and homes is now considered radical. Forty-nine years of occupation is the claim one hears over and over again, the fiftieth anniversary of the occupation is upon us, people say, and hard as I try, when I add forty-nine to the year 1948 I do not come up with 2016, but rather 1997.
There is almost complete disregard by the international community for the crimes committed by the Zionists between 1948 and 1967. The erasure of the fact that these were years marked by dispossession, massacres, and unspeakable abuse of human rights by Israel, is a truly impressive magic trick. Two small areas within Palestine that were drawn by Israel and left out of the boundaries of Israel in 1948, i.e. the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, have become recognized as Palestine. But that is not all. Not a single inch of the West Bank or the Gaza Strip is under Palestinian sovereignty. All of the Palestine, from the River to the Sea is controlled by Israel.
So when European countries recognize Palestine they too are behaving like fools in a magic show, happy to be part of the illusion of some great master of deceit. And indeed, as the world is led by the nose, fooled by the illusion of a Palestine that exists, Israel, the master of deceit, continues to shrink what little is left of Palestinian life and no one stands up to admit that the emperor has no clothes! There is no Palestinian state, there is no Two State Solution, there is no West Bank, and there is not a single inch of Palestinian sovereignty anywhere in Palestine.
“OPT” has become a rather well known acronym, used to describe the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But when we ask people to see those territories on a map, all we see is what used to be the West Bank, an area that Israel created in 1948 and then eliminated in 1967, and the Gaza Strip which exists only as a concentration camp in which Israel is allowed to commit genocide, as the world looks the other away and pretends not to see.
This begs the following questions: If the OPT are limited to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip then where are the Un-occupied Palestinian territories? Are there Palestinian territories that are not occupied? If such territories do exist, can someone please point them out on a map? Because every map I look at and every inch of Palestine that I visit is occupied. Another term that is used a great deal in connection to Palestine is “settlements.” Sometimes they are called, “illegal settlements.” Both refer largely to the Israeli colonies built in the West Bank. There is talk of “settlement expansion,” “settlement blocks,” etc. Again, this begs a question: what is the difference between the Jewish settlements in those areas and the ones built in Al-Jaleel or the Naqqab? What about the settlements built around Jerusalem or the one near Yaffa known as Tel-Aviv?
Israelis who live on Palestinian land that was stolen in 1948 like to see themselves as authentic Israelis, good liberal minded people and God forbid they are not settlers. Settlers are those “other” Israelis who live on lands that were stolen from Palestinians in 1967. But what is the difference? All of Palestine was stolen by force, and with very few exceptions, all Israeli cities and towns, villages and farms were built on land that was stolen, which makes them all illegal settlements. Once again the master of deceit is leading us all by the nose to see the world as Israel wants us to see it and there is no one to cry out: “the emperor has NO clothes!”
Between 1948-1967 Israel gained legitimacy by committing horrendous crimes and creating what they call “facts on the ground.” The 1967 conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, in which Israel completed the occupation of Palestine, shifted the focus from the territories Israel occupied in 1948 to the newly occupied territories. Now, for the past five decades Israel has been creating “facts on the ground” in those areas, which are now known as “Judea and Smaria.” But every magician, every thief and certainly a master of deceit of such proportions has to have accomplices.
Few people can actually claim not to know what Israel is doing. The international diplomatic corps is fully aware of what takes place in Palestine. The CIA and the US State Department are fully aware of every trick and every crime committed by Israel. Each and every US administration as well as the European governments has been complicit in the crimes committed by Israel. However, it is time for the rest of the world to wake up and end the illusion. The illusion that Israel has legitimacy, the illusion that Israel is somehow the answer to the holocaust and to anti-Semitism, and the illusion that some parts of Palestine are occupied while others are not. It’s time to call out loud and clear that all Israeli settlements everywhere are illegal and just as in the tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the emperor had no clothes, Israel too has no legitimacy.
For decades, America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been relying on its partner’s money in discrete and covert operations; the money of the Saudi oil-rich kingdom.
Citing several current and former US officials, the New York Times reported on Jan. 23 that from the very beginning of the US operations against the Assad government in Syria, Saudi money was largely the supporter.
The most recent example of this ‘close bond’ between the US and Saudi Arabia has came to light in the New York Times article, which reported that US President Barack Obama knew well the US could rely on Saudi money when, in 2013, he secretly gave the CIA the green light to arm militant groups in Syria that were fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Code-named Timber Sycamore, the deal stipulates that the Saudis contribute both weapons and large sums of money and the CIA takes the lead in training the rebels on AK-47 assault rifles and tank-destroying missiles.
In 2012, the US repeatedly claimed that the Timber Sycamore program was designed to deliver what it claimed to be ‘non-lethal’ aid, yet months later, Obama gave his approval for the CIA to begin directly arming and training the rebels from a base in Jordan, amending the Timber Sycamore program to allow lethal assistance.
Also, the NY Times report noticeably underlines that such a long intelligence relationship helps explain why the United States has been reluctant to openly criticize Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, its treatment of women and its support for the extreme ideology Wahhabism, that has inspired many of the very terrorist groups.
In the latest violation which brought uproar across the Muslim world in particular, Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, for challenging the oppression of the royal family and demanding human rights, yet the Obama administration did not publically condemn the action. Also, another form of Saudi human rights abuses to which the US has had no clear condemnation is its war on Yemen that has so far claimed the lives of more than 8,270 people including women and children.
The CIA covert operations in Syria began in 2013, in which more than 10,000 Wahhabi terrorists were armed, funded and trained. The trainings were taking place inside Jordan’s territories, and estimates have put the total cost of the ops at several billion dollars.
“They understand that they have to have us, and we understand that we have to have them,” said Mike Rogers, the former Republican congressman who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when the CIA operation began.
The operation was described as part of the so-called “counterterrorism” program. On this note, a former State Department counterterrorism adviser and the author of a book on the Islamic State, William McCants points out “The more that the argument becomes, ‘We need them as a counterterrorism partner,’ the less persuasive it is. If this is purely a conversation about counterterrorism cooperation, and if the Saudis are a big part of the problem in creating terrorism in the first place, then how persuasive of an argument is it?”
Even though the biggest contributor was Saudi Arabia, yet its allies also had their share in the game. According to the NY Times, when Obama signed off on arming the rebels in the spring of 2013, the Qataris, Turkish and Saudis had been funneling weapons into Syria for more than a year. The Qataris had even smuggled in shipments of Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired missiles over the border from Turkey.
Journalist Robert Parry in a recent piece on Hillary Clinton shows us that she has moved to the right of President Barack Obama and is actively courting the support of neocons while operating within the Beltway’s foreign policy consensus:
“Clinton is rolling the dice in the belief that most Democrats won’t think through the fallacious ‘group thinks’ of Official Washington – or will at least be scared and confused enough to steer away from [Sen. Bernie] Sanders. That way, Clinton believes she can still win the nomination.”
Not that this is entirely new. Clinton’s attempts to project a commander-in-chief toughness began during her 2008 primary fight against Obama, but her own famous ad from eight years ago gives us a criterion for POTUS that she fails to satisfy.
To underscore doubts about Obama’s readiness to be president, Hillary Clinton’s team created an ingenious ad that played on the fear factor while emphasizing her experience with military issues and with foreign leaders. As a phone rings in the background, we hear a male voice:
“It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call: Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military – someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?”
The visuals begin with the image of a suburban middle-class house, then quickly fades to images of one child after another asleep. A parent opens a door and looks down as the male voice ends with the question above: “Who do you want answering the phone?” The final image is Hillary Clinton wearing a brown business-suit and glasses, picking up the phone: “I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve of this message.”
That ad is not running this election cycle, perhaps for good reason. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that she is not a person with good enough judgment to answer a 3 a.m. phone call.
Administrative Bad Judgment
For instance, Hillary Clinton has told us that none of her Secretary of State emails were classified. Yet on Jan. 19, the intelligence community’s inspector general Charles McCullough responded to inquiries from Senate committees overseeing intelligence matters, saying that some of Clinton’s emails contained sensitive information above “top secret.”
“Several dozen additional classified emails have been found,” he reported, “including ones containing information from so-called ‘special access programs.’” The emails about special access programs were so sensitive that “McCullough and some of his aides had to receive clearance” to review the material.
Hillary Clinton’s hair-splitting distinction between what was labeled or marked “classified” at the time and what was in fact so sensitive that it deserved a “top secret” stamp (or higher) is irrelevant, for negligence is not a defense when it comes to national security information.
As Secretary of State, Clinton should have realized that some emails sent to her would contain highly sensitive information, even when it was not labeled that way. Her failure to use a secure government server reflects very bad judgment for a person wanting to make decisions about how the U.S. government should respond to 3 a.m. crises “happening in the world.”
Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for the Clinton campaign in November, inadvertently confirmed her boss’ lousy judgment. Palmieri appeared on Bloomberg TV and said “that Clinton ‘didn’t really think it through’ when she decided to use her personal email account for State Department business.”
Political Bad Judgment
But the email brouhaha is not the only significant example of Clinton showing poor judgment. (Arguably far worse, she has admitted to a “mistake” in voting for the Iraq War, which some foreign policy analysts consider the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history).
Also, on a personal level, seeking to burnish her image as a tough and seasoned player on the world stage, she began a foreign policy address at George Washington University on March 17, 2008, by describing her landing in Bosnia during that country’s civil war:
“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. … There was no greeting ceremony, and we were basically told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened.”
Clinton later said she misspoke after CBS released the video of her, with daughter Chelsea, greeting dignitaries, receiving flowers, and visiting with a little girl on the tarmac. For Clinton to tell her dramatic tale about her Bosnian tarmac experience when she should have realized that major news agencies had visual records is another instance of very bad judgment.
This also was not a one-off slip-up that Bill Clinton blamed on her being 60 years old and tired (which should raise another red flag since she is now eight years older). She had been repeating versions of the story since December 2007.
So who should answer that urgent 3 a.m. White House phone call? Should it be someone who has exercised seriously bad judgment as a U.S. senator and as Secretary of State as well as verifiably bad judgment in the political arena? Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s war candidate, has hoisted herself on her own petard.
Bart Gruzalski, Professor Emeritus Northeastern University Boston, has published three books, over 50 articles, as well as articles online.
RAMALLAH – After a nearly three-year long battle in Israeli military courts, five Palestinian teens from the occupied West Bank village of Hares accused of manslaughter after reportedly throwing stones were on Thursday issued sentences of 15 years, a prisoners’ rights group said.
The case has been disputed in the past by relatives and rights groups, who say that insufficient evidence was provided to prove that the five had any involvement in the death of an Israeli toddler who passed away two years after the teens were accused of throwing stones at her mother’s vehicle, causing it to crash.
A lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Iyad Mahamid, told Ma’an that the military court issued the sentences to Muhammad Suleiman, Tamer Souf, Ammar Souf, Ali Shamlawi, and Muhammad Kleib.
Relatives of the detainees told Ma’an following a court hearing in December 2015 that the teens would be sentenced to prison terms of 15 years on the grounds that their families pay fines of 30,000 shekels ($7,700) by Jan. 28.
“Hares Boys,” an activist blog dedicated to raising awareness of the teens’ case, posted on their Facebook page “Free the Hares Boys” on Thursday that the families were able to pay the fines in full with the assistance of outside donations.
Failure to pay the fines could have resulted in prolonged sentencing to at least 25 years in prison, according to the Hares Boys blog.
Thursday sentencing marks a poor end to a drawn-out court battle that began after the five were detained by Israeli forces on March 15, 2013. All were 16 and 17 years old at the time of their detention.
Their arrest followed the hospitalization of a three-year-old Israeli girl, Adele Biton, who suffered severe head injuries when her mother’s car collided with a truck near the Israeli mega-settlement of Ariel. The toddler died two years later after suffering complications from pneumonia.
The family believes that while the child died of pneumonia, the severity of her complications was due to injuries sustained after the vehicle accident, according to Israeli media.
The Israeli vehicle had reportedly lost control after being hit by a stone, and the five teens were later accused of throwing stones that day at vehicles driving on Route 5, a highway leading to several nearby Israeli settlements.
Twenty Israeli drivers afterwards filed insurance claims stating that stones hit their cars, but the incidents lacked eyewitness testimony and the police received no calls at the time the teens were throwing stones.
All five denied the allegations, but later signed confessions “after being repeatedly abused in prison and during interrogations,” according to the Hares Boys blog.
The mother of the toddler told Israeli media following Thursday’s sentencing: “It is not much consolation, we would have preferred [the] death [penalty] or life-sentencing. The state did not properly tend to the matter and it didn’t fully enforce the punishment to the fullest.”
The British Parliament on Thursday in response to an online public forum inquiry said an official from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv had met with Chief Military Prosecutor Maurice Hirsch in November to express its concern over the case of the Hares boys, adding that the government would continue to raise the case to Israeli authorities.
The teens’ families as well as rights groups have repeatedly argued over the past three years that the youth were being held without evidence and unjustly prosecuted in a military court system that convicts over 99 percent of Palestinians.
The Hares Boys blog wrote in their defense in 2013: “If the boys are convicted, this case would set a legal precedent which would allow the Israeli military to convict any Palestinian child or youngster for attempted murder in cases of stone-throwing.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September declared a “war on stone throwing,” establishing a minimum prison sentence for adults who throw stones as well as allowing Israeli forces to use sniper fire against stone throwers in circumstances that pose mortal danger.
The PM said at the time that there would be “significant fines” for minors who commit such offences, as well as for their parents.
The Knesset had already passed a law in July making penalties for stone-throwing more severe. The new law allowed for stone-throwers to receive a 20-year prison sentence where intent to harm could be proven, and 10 years where it could not.
At the time the bill was passed, Palestinian MK Jamal Zahalka said: “Who will the judge send to prison? He who demolished the home, seized the land, killed the brother, or the boy who threw a stone?”